The thought of massaging your salad might make you laugh out loud, but there’s some serious science behind running your fingers through those leafy greens before cooking or eating.
1. More nutrients
Locked inside the cell walls of cruciferous vegetables and leafy greens are disease-fighting phytonutrients – the messengers that deliver antioxidants like carotenoids, flavonoids, vitamin C, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Breaking the cell walls by massaging, chopping, or blending (like with juicing or smoothie-making) will release these antioxidants that heat alone can’t do.
2. Easier to eat
Tough, chewy, fibrous leaves, the kind you might encounter with mature kale or collards, can give your jaw muscles quite a workout, and aren’t all that pleasant to eat. Massaging the leaves will soften the fibers and make the leaves easier to chew, whether raw or cooked, as well as making them easier to digest.
3. It’s kind of therapeutic and creates good habits
Getting close to your food, making something from scratch, and knowing you’re unlocking a whole lot of honest and a whole lot of healthy by properly preparing your food just feels good. All of that good releases endorphins. Your brain remembers the act of massaging leafy greens is something that makes you feel good, and encourages you to do it again. It’s a simple formula:
Massaging and Eating Kale + Makes Me Feel Good = Healthy Habit! (tweet this!)
If you’re not a super fan of leafy green super foods, think about ways you can incorporate them more often with other food you like to eat, because when it comes to nutrient-dense foods, leafy greens top the charts. For example, add shredded kale to your favorite soup, or mix chopped spinach and escarole into your chicken salad (with homemade mayo).
While most media hale kale as king, watercress has the most nutrients of all the leafy greens. But whether it’s kale, collards, watercress, escarole, Romaine, chard, spinach, or even the leafy tops of celery, a variety of massaged leafy greens will deliver a healthy dose of cholesterol-lowering fiber, water to keep you hydrated, and a long list of vitamins and minerals like magnesium, calcium, folate, potassium, a few of the B vitamins, as well as vitamins E and K.
Here’s my favorite way to snack on kale:
- 1 head of flat or curly kale (about 10 to 15 leaves)
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- Pinch of finely ground sea salt
- Preheat oven to 250 F
- Rinse and thoroughly dry kale leaves
- Pull kale leaves from the middle woody stem; rip leaves into bite-sized pieces, place in a large bowl
- Massage leaf pieces by gathering a handful of leaves and gently crushing in your hands. Repeat until all leaves feel less rigid.
- Pour olive oil over leaves, sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Continue massaging until leaves are well coated with oil and salt
- Transfer leaves, and any remaining salty oil in the bottom of the bowl, to a sheet pan; spread evenly in a single layer
- Place pan in oven. Bake 20 minutes. Turn pan and bake an additional 20 minutes. Check for crispness and continue baking if leaves are not crisp, checking every 7 minutes.
- When leaves are crisp and delicate, remove from oven. Let cool. Eat immediately.
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